Who was Sergei Diaghilev? Trailblazer, visionary and ballet pioneer

Sergei Diaghilev, one of the most influential pioneers of modern art in the 20th century, was born 145 years ago.

He was born in 1872 to a wealthy Russian family and would go on to found Ballets Russes, one of the most influential ballet companies of the 20th century.

Diaghilev is remembered as an art critic, visionary, all-round provocateur and trailblazer responsible for helping turn ballet into a modern art form.

Diaghilev formed the influential Ballets Russes in Paris in 1909 and the company went on to tour Europe and America.

The Ballets Russes were a trailblazing dance company that united talents from the disciplines of art, fashion, dance, choreography, and music, and vaulted them to dizzying creative heights.

From 1909-1929, the Ballet Russes performed on stages around the globe, mesmerising, even scandalising, audiences with its unprecedented costumes, stage sets, compositions, and choreography.

In Schéhérazade, which premiered at the Théâtre national de l’Opéra, Paris, in 1910, dancers traded tutus for artist Léon Bakst’s risqué harem pants while Vaslav Nijinsky performed in gold body paint and bejeweled costumes.

Firebird, based on Russian fairy tales, marked Diaghilev’s first commissioned score from Igor Stravinsky, kicking off a collaboration that would include the primal work, The Rite of Spring and Pulcinella.

Pablo Picasso designed the costumes and sets for three Diaghilev ballets, including Pulcinella.

Russian prima ballerina Anna Pavlova, French artist Henri Matisse, and French Jean Cocteau—all figured into Diaghilev’s sensational productions.

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